Where to head and what deals to look for to take advantage of shoulder-season discounts.

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Fall is my favorite time of year to travel.

Not only is the weather almost universally nice, but as soon as those little rugrats are back in school, prices plummet and the crowds thin out pretty much everywhere you want to go.

Generally, airfare deals to everywhere start showing up around Sept. 15. So, if there’s somewhere you want to go, sign up on sites like Airfarewatchdog.com to be notified when prices plummet. Also consider signing up for airline emails; they’ll alert you to special offers.

I like ski resorts in the fall, when the weather tends to be beautiful and the leaves on the trees start blazing gold and red. Prices stay low until the snow flies and the ski lifts open, especially if you can get away during the week.

This is also the season for festivals, which many locations sponsor to lure tourists in what otherwise would be a slow time of year.

PLACES TO CONSIDER

Want to visit Utah’s Zion National Park? We liked the bucolic Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort nearby, and you can save 30 percent on cabins by going in the fall. And hiking in Zion is much nicer after it cools down, too.

Horseback rides are available at Sundance Resort in Utah.
Horseback rides are available at Sundance Resort in Utah.

Or consider a gorgeous drive up Utah’s Provo Canyon, when all the leaves will be changing color. Robert Redford’s Sundance Resort recently offered a Living Social deal for $234 per night, a small fraction of the ski season price.

I’m heading to Lake Tahoe and Big Bear in California for a mini-vacation this month, after the prices drop from their summer highs and there’s plenty of availability. Most activities are still open, but with tourism dwindling, companies start offering deals on Groupon, Living Social and the like. We scored Groupon deals for 35 percent off bike rentals, 47 percent off a climbing wall and 58 percent off paddleboard rentals

However, some activities will have limited availability or will be closed for the season. For example, I found a half-price deal on Groupon to ride the Squaw Valley tram in Lake Tahoe, but the tram only runs on weekends after Labor Day, until ski season. We’re going during the week. And at our hotel, the pool will be closed, but I think we can keep ourselves amused without it.

THINK INTERNATIONAL

And don’t limit yourself to the Northern Hemisphere, either.

Down south, where the seasons are reversed, it’s springtime and the weather’s nice, too. Consider heading to Australia, New Zealand or on safari in Africa during the shoulder season.

I don’t recommend going to the Caribbean or coastal Mexico right now, unless you buy good travel insurance, due to the risk of hurricanes. But, if you are willing to risk it, and can tolerate humidity, you can find excellent rates at the more hurricane-prone properties. Check CheapCaribbean.com and see what’s on offer.